The convergence of factors that got the rumor mill going about an impending retirement was just coincidence, he said.
The Pope was referring to his plan to visit the relics of Celestine V, the last pope to retire in a situation other than schism or scandal; the tomb was also visited by Benedict XVI some years before his retirement.
But Benedict XVI has given a “great example,” Francis said, and it will help him to make his own decisions when and if it becomes time to resign.
Benedict is “a man who is sustaining the Church with his goodness and his retreat” to prayer, Francis said, speaking of the joy he feels every time he visits the Pope Emeritus at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
Responding to a question about the possibility of setting out rules regarding the figure of a Pope Emeritus, Pope Francis contended that “history itself will help to regulate better.”
“The first experience went very well,” he said, because Benedict XVI “is a holy and discreet man.”
For the future, Francis added, “it would be better to define things or explain them better.”
Talking about his own possible resignation, Pope Francis replied that he would not return to Argentina.
“I am the Bishop of Rome. In that case I would be the bishop emeritus of Rome,” he said, adding that he could stay at St. John Lateran.
St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome, and until the 14th-century Avignon papacy, the popes actually lived there.
Serve the people
The Pope recalled that as archbishop in Buenos Aires, he had already prepared his retirement. He said he planned, as a bishop emeritus, to “hear confessions and visit the sick.”
“To be at the service of the people where you can,” he said, “this is what I was thinking about in Buenos Aires.” He added that he would enjoy doing the same now if he were to ever resign the papacy.